Government Cutbacks Leave Faith-Based Services Hurting
Feb. 20, 2009, Washington Post — Faith-based charities, which provide an enormous array of private social services to the nation's sick, elderly and poor, are facing unprecedented cutbacks from one of their biggest funders: the government.
The nation's economic woes have led local and state government agencies across the country to reduce contracts and grants or delay payments to the groups, which have been forced to eliminate programs, lay off staff or try to borrow money in a tight lending market. In the Washington region, where the Maryland, Virginia and District budgets are being developed, faith-based charities from Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington to the Salvation Army's National Capital Area Command are freezing job vacancies, postponing initiatives and rallying their religious congregations to dig deeper into their pockets.
Government leaders are also urging the organizations to increase their fundraising, but political leaders and the groups say that the economy is causing deep cuts in private giving. Ken Kozloff, chief executive of the Jewish Social Service Agency, with offices in Montgomery and Fairfax counties, has seen its private donations fall almost 10 percent, but its client roster has grown 35 percent. It gets half of its revenue from federal, state and local governments.
Without government funding, "where are the resources going to come from?" asked Kozloff. "How do we serve people? How do we keep people's lives whole?"
Faith groups elsewhere in the country are feeling the strain. California is soon expected to make its payments to faith groups, and other organizations, as IOUs instead of cash. In Illinois, a local Lutheran social services agency is owed $4 million. A Lutheran social services agency in Minnesota closed four residential facilities for troubled adolescents after the state slashed its funding. And in Newark, New Jersey cut a $1 million contract to the local Catholic Charities, which provided job training and other assistance to 400 mentally ill welfare recipients, forcing it to shut down the program and lay off about a dozen people.